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FIFA: ‘We have not lied about Qatar emissions’

Lusail stadium, Qatar Reuters/Pawel Kopczynski
The 80,000-seat Lusail stadium will host the final of the Qatar World Cup on December 18
  • Climate group questions claim that World Cup will be carbon neutral
  • FIFA and organisers point to ‘detailed legacy plans’ for stadiums
  • Qatar’s Supreme Committee says it is on track for net zero

FIFA has rejected a report that claims Qatar 2022 will rely on “flimsy” offsets to meet its pledge to host the first carbon-neutral World Cup.

The report, compiled by climate advocacy group Carbon Market Watch, alleges that Qatar, the world’s largest producer of natural gas, is omitting some greenhouse gas emissions from its calculations and is spreading the emissions generated by stadium construction over the lifetime of the venue, rather than counting them all toward the tournament. 

A FIFA spokesperson told AGBI: “At no point has FIFA misled its stakeholders, as is claimed by the report. 

“As noted in the World Cup 2022 Sustainability Strategy, ‘carbon-neutral’ means reducing emissions where possible and compensating for the remainder by investing in carbon reduction projects (via offset units) to achieve net zero carbon emissions.

“As part of this commitment, the organisers have pledged to measure, mitigate and offset all FIFA World Cup 2022 greenhouse gas emissions, while advancing low-carbon solutions in Qatar and the region.”

The spokesperson added that the governing body of world football was “fully aware of the risks that mega-events pose on the economy, the natural environment and on people and communities” – and the tournament’s organisers had been making efforts to tackle those impacts.

FIFA also disputed Carbon Market Watch’s calculation of emissions from the construction of the stadiums. It argued that the group’s estimate was based only on their use at the World Cup and did not factor in “detailed legacy plans and business models” for the stadiums after the tournament, which runs from November 21 to December 18.

However, Carbon Market Watch described FIFA’s statement as “rather disingenuous”. 

“It has only attributed a tiny fraction of these emissions, namely 70 days related to the tournament divided by what appears to be a 60-year expected lifetime,” said a spokesperson for the advocacy group.

“This seems highly unlikely, given the experience of some former World Cups and similar international sporting events, where numerous venues were abandoned or neglected. In light of the fact that Doha only had one major stadium prior to being awarded the World Cup, this seems like a realistic risk.” 

Carbon Market Watch added: “While legacy plans are a welcome development, many of the uses identified in them could have been much better served with far more modest infrastructure. In light of these risks, the responsible, cautious and conservative thing to do is to attribute all or most of the emissions associated with the construction of the permanent stadiums to the World Cup.”

Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy told AGBI it was “speculative and inaccurate” to draw conclusions on its commitment to deliver the first carbon-neutral World Cup.

Qatar made the pledge when it bid for the event more than 11 years ago.

“We are on track to hosting a carbon-neutral World Cup,” a Supreme Committee spokesperson said in a statement.

“The stadiums in Qatar are built to serve the community before and after the World Cup has ended. The emissions associated with their construction was apportioned across the lifespan of the stadiums. No other country has engaged so deeply with its citizens to ensure a sustainable legacy is left behind after a FIFA World Cup.”

The committee added that Qatar was working to ensure there would be “no ‘white elephants’ after the tournament.”  

Carbon Market Watch’s Gilles Dufrasne, the author of the report, suggested the carbon neutrality claim was “simply not credible,” adding: “The evidence suggests that the emissions from this World Cup will be considerably higher than expected by the organisers, and the carbon credits being purchased to offset these emissions are unlikely to have a sufficiently positive impact on the climate.”

However, FIFA and the Supreme Committee rejected this suggestion, pointing out that the carbon credits were being procured via separate processes by each of the organising bodies. 

FIFA said it would offset its share of remaining emissions with a reductions portfolio that will be verified by and comply with international voluntary certification standards.

The Supreme Committee said carbon credits would be delivered across a number of projects in Qatar and beyond, “each of which will cut emissions in different ways, helping to support environmental projects and raising awareness of the importance of sustainability”.

The spokesperson added: “This is not just about delivering a sustainable World Cup, but a blueprint for the sustainable future of the whole country.”